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Soldiers premonition of death

March 24, 2012
Sue Eckhoff - Grundy County Heritage Museum , Reinbeck Courier

Hiram Talbert Holt was killed in action in 1864. Several months after the Battle of Shiloh and following the death of several close friends in Alabama regiments, Sgt. Holt wrote about the meaning of death, and about a premonition of his own death in combat. This in fact did occur on February 24, 1864, while Holt was on picket duty near Dalton, Ga.

In his 1862 letter to his wife he asks her to comfort the widow of their friend, a combat fatality. He writes, "Yes, Carrie, hasten in your love, to give her what comfort you can, you may soon need it yourself. I feel very strange of late. I know not why. It may be superstition, but somehow I feel a presentiment that I shall be killed the next battle I get into.

Some soldiers believe they can never be killed in combat, while others are always fearful. In the late spring of 1864, at the height of Sherman's invasion of Georgia, Federal Soldier Rice Bull was advancing with his unit on Dallas, Georgia. They had a leisurely dinner while engineers bridged Pumkinvine Creek. As Bull attempted to relax his good friend Sgt. James Cummings sat down. Cummings was unusually melancholy and sad, and confessed to the belief that he would not survive their next battle.

When the bridge was finished the company marched to a crossroads called New Hope Church. By morning the northerners ran into a storm of rifle fire and batteries of artillery that pumped charges into their advancing line.

Bull's colonel was killed and soldiers took shelter behind a slight ridge. That night nature erupted into a fierce thunderstorm. Still men pressed close to the earth, more fearful of Confederate fire than drowning.

About 10 p.m. the shooting slackened. Cummings stood up, drawing a harsh whisper "Jim you know there are harsh orders not to fire, why do you stand and expose yourself?" Cummings replied he didn't think there was any more danger in standing than lying in the mud. No more than a minute later Bull heard a noise like a hammer hitting a tree. He looked up to see Cummings fall heavily to the ground, a bullet through his forehead. His premonition had come true.



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